Excerpt: Meant To Be (Malsum Pass Series 4)

“Can we get a dog?”

“You know we can’t, honey.  Our building doesn’t allow pets.” She said, pushing the cart out of the aisle.

Jeremy followed.  “But we’re out in the country.  There’s lots of space for a dog here.”

Elizabeth scanned the shelves.  “We’re just here for the summer, baby, and a dog is a full-time responsibility.  What would we do when it was time to leave?”

“Our place sucks.” Jeremy mumbled sullenly and Elizabeth sighed.  She scanned the shelves again and saw that the store had placed coolers, sun umbrellas, and box fans on top of the shelves.  A fan or two was an excellent idea.  Standing up on tiptoes she reached but her fingertips just barely touched the bottom of the box.

“Let me get that for you.”

A heavily tattooed arm came into Elizabeth’s line of sight before she turned to smile her thanks at the man.  He was tall, over six feet.  His hair was a dark red, clipped close on the sides but left long on top.  Hipster hair, Elizabeth mused.  His eyes were brown and twinkling with amusement as he lowered the large box easily to her cart.  The lower half of his face was covered with a long, if well maintained, dark red beard.  Add to that the abundance of tattoos covering the arms left bare by his white tee shirt and he gave off a rugged appearance, possibly even dangerous.  A bad boy; Trouble with a capital T.  He may be handsome, and he may appeal to her physically, but she avoided men like him.

She shot him a grateful smile.  “Thank you so much.  Could I trouble you to take a second one down for me?”

The man returned her smile, his eyes moving down her form in open appreciation.  While she wasn’t actually interested in the man, she was still vain enough to be glad she had changed into a clean pair of shorts and a pretty, sleeveless, yellow top before she’d left the cabin.

She watched as he reached up to grab another box and noticed that he flexed his arms.  She almost chuckled knowing full well that the box wasn’t that heavy and the flex was merely to show off.  She cleared her throat to make sure the bubble of laughter didn’t escape.  “Would you happen to know if someone in town sells sleeping bags or perhaps an air mattress?”

“L.J. carries camping stuff over at The Powder Keg, so you should be able to find something.”  His eyes moved over her face for a moment and then he frowned. “You’re not staying at the Cedars here in town?” He asked, one dark red eyebrow raised.  She had always been a bit jealous of people who could do that.  She had thought she could move her eyebrows independently of each other, had even done it often until she had seen herself in a mirror and realized that her eyebrows weren’t actually moving much at all.  Instead, she was merely opening one eye wider than the other so half of her face looked surprised while the other half looked suspicious.  It was not a good look and she wished someone had told her sooner.

“No, not in town, but this is the closest store.” She answered.

He looked a little disappointed and she had to tamp down her pleasure at his obvious interest.  She had no business being pleased about that when she didn’t return the sentiment.

“Mom, can I get some Ding Dongs?” Jeremy asked.  He had moved around to the endcap and was shooting her a hopeful look as he held up the box for her to see.

She grimaced but nodded.  Ding Dongs didn’t have nutritional value but they were fun and they were here to have fun.  Besides, she’d already had to tell him no once.  She was such a pushover when it came to him.

“Your son?” The man asked and she turned her attention back to him and smiled as she nodded.  He held out his hand, “I’m Conner Pierce.”

“Elizabeth Larkin” she said, stretching out her own hand.

She wasn’t exactly sure what happened next.  Their fingers had barely touched when Conner Pierce had snatched his hand away as if he’d been burned and fell backward into a display of assorted canned goods and boxes.  His rugged face held a look of horror as he skittered backward on his hands and feet like a crab, sending the spilled cans rolling further down the aisle.

Elizabeth moved forward, her arm extended to help him up, but that seemed to only put him into more of a panic.  She withdrew it.  “Are you okay?” She asked.

Just then, a man with a nametag who Elizabeth assumed was a store employee rushed over.  “Conner, what happened?”

Conner Pierce, the rugged bad boy, just stared at her for a moment in shock and horror before he shook his head, scrambled to his feet, mumbled “Sorry” and then took off like he was being chased by the hounds of hell.

Elizabeth just stood there staring in confusion while Jeremy pushed an entire Ding Dong into his mouth before saying around a gob of cream filled chocolate cake, “Weird.”